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Local perceptions as a guide for the sustainable management of natural resources: empirical evidence from a small-scale society in Bolivian Amazonia

Ńlvaro FernŠndez-Llamazares, Institut de CiŤncia i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA), Universitat AutÚnoma de Barcelona; Metapopulation Research Centre (MRC), Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki
Isabel DŪaz-Reviriego, Institut de CiŤncia i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA), Universitat AutÚnoma de Barcelona
Maximilien GuŤze, Institut de CiŤncia i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA), Universitat AutÚnoma de Barcelona
Mar Cabeza, Metapopulation Research Centre (MRC), Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki
Aili Pyhšlš, Institut de CiŤncia i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA), Universitat AutÚnoma de Barcelona; Metapopulation Research Centre (MRC), Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki
Victoria Reyes-GarcŪa, Institut de CiŤncia i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA), Universitat AutÚnoma de Barcelona; Instituciů Catalana de Recerca i Estudis AvanÁats (ICREA)

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-08092-210102

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Abstract

Research on natural resource management suggests that local perceptions form the basis upon which many small-scale societies monitor availability and change in the stock of common-pool natural resources. In contrast, this literature debates whether local perceptions can be effective in guiding the sustainable management of natural resources. With empirical evidence on this matter still highly limited, we explored the role of local perceptions as drivers of harvesting and management behavior in a small-scale society in Bolivian Amazonia. We conducted structured interviews to capture local perceptions of availability and change in the stock of thatch palm (Geonoma deversa) among the Tsimane', an indigenous society of foragers-horticulturalists (n = 296 adults in 13 villages). We analyzed whether perceptions of availability match estimates of abundance obtained from ecological data and whether differences in perception help to explain harvesting behavior and local management of thatch palm. Perceptions of availability of G. deversa are highly contingent upon the social, economic, and cultural conditions within which the Tsimane' have experienced changes in the availability of the resource, thus giving a better reflection of the historical, rather than of the ecological, dimensions of the changes undergone. Although local perceptions might fall short in precision when scrutinized from an ecological standpoint, their importance in informing sustainable management should not be underestimated. Our findings show that most of the harvesting and management actions that the Tsimane' undertake are, at least partially, shaped by their local perceptions. This paper contributes to the broader literature on natural resource management by providing empirical evidence of the critical role of local perceptions in promoting collective responses for the sustainable management of natural resources.

Key words

change perceptions; collective action; common-pool resources; local peoples; overharvesting; Tsimane'

Copyright © 2016 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article †is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. †You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087